The word “mythology” is associated with “mythos”:
mythos: 1. Myths collectively; the body of stories associated with a culture, institution or person (see: mythology)
2. A traditional story accepted as history; serves to explain the world view of a people (see: myth)
3. An orientation that characterizes the thinking of a group or nation (see: political orientation, ideology, political theory)
This definition comes compliments of WordWeb (available as a separate application for Windows and is part of the Artha application). In academic terms, we need not limit ourselves to the popular denigration of “mythology” as something inherently false. Of course it’s not fact, but mythology addresses itself to things far above mere fact.
In this sense, it becomes easier to recognize the root mythology of Western Civilization as mostly Germanic. That is, while the Greco-Roman Civilization gave birth to the West, we are not Greco-Roman, but derived from the Germanic nations that conquered the last vestiges of Rome. After the Middle Ages, European (Germanic) scholars began rediscovering the intellectual traditions of Greece and Rome and fed this back into their own intellectual traditions so that whatever it means to be “Western” reached its peak with the Enlightenment period of Western history. Even terms like “Post-modern” refers to a mythos that still stands squarely on the Enlightenment. So if you give time to reading about such things, you become aware of Western Civilization possessing its own mythos separate from the mythos of other cultures.
The primary failing of Western Christianity is a failure to recognize itself as trapped inside of Western Civilization. Further, for all the Bible teaching that warns this is not the same as the Hebrew mythos, the average Western Christian you encounter will still be thoroughly Western first and foremost. Further, they are likely to hold an unspoken assumption that Western is Christian by definition. The acorn of Reformation didn’t fall very far from the Catholic tree. Worst of all, virtually every Western Christian regardless of sectarian background will most certain operate from Western intellectual assumptions that push their doctrine and theology into the realm of “religion” as something that is nothing more than a single thread woven into the tapestry of Western culture, and competing for attention and political dominance.
For all their religious rhetoric, Western Christians demonstrate no effective genuine commitment to things of the Spirit. They have secularized the concept of “spiritual” down to just a more accurate form of intellect. But it requires stepping outside Western mythos to recognize this. As long as you remain within the Western intellectual traditions, you cannot possibly escape the confinement of awareness.
We need desperately to come up with a much better mythos, a better mythology than Western mythology if we are going to restore any part of God’s revelation. You cannot follow Christ and remain Western, because Western is inherently inimical to His teaching. The West didn’t arise from His teaching, but was a nasty perversion of His teaching. Since mythology is just a working model for the mind to organize and implement a faith response within reality, let me suggest something.
Basic assumption: Our current world is not ultimate reality. Indeed, our world is just a confining bubble within the wider Creation. The bubble itself is our fallen awareness. It limits our ability to really understand Creation. Thus, we assert a terminology that says “world” is not just our planet, but a particular level of existence, a fallen plane of existence. It’s a different category from the term “universe,” which implies the full limits of physical existence itself. But Creation is far bigger than either of them, for it includes the Spirit Realm that God created around Himself, housing angels, for example. Again, while we are a part of Creation, we are the only part of Creation that is fallen.
So let’s pick out anthropology and generate an example of a mythology that might bring us closer to God’s revelation. In doing so, we’ll have to counter the prevailing mythos.
At the lowest level of human existence are the mere appetites, a brutish emotion-driven life. Don’t call it “animal” because animals aren’t fallen. It’s merely what unenlightened humans imagine they see in the natural world of animals. Such a life consumes the mind with the tasks of survival out of fear that there is nothing beyond such an existence. There’s a good bit of that in Western mythology.
On a higher level is a mind that also uses formal reasoning processes. While we have a Western cultural myth that envisions rising to a life of pure reason and logic, it is neither possible nor desirable. It is the sum total of what mankind can discern with the full use of all human talent and capability. It denies the fall, so it’s not likely to bring much success, but it also insists that humans can eventually reach some kind of Nirvana by making the most of reason and analysis as the basis for exploring the limits of what man can do with physical reality. It asserts that physical reality is all there is. In Western mythology, “real” means concrete reality; it asserts that humans must use their senses and abstract formal reasoning to understand what’s “real.”
The biblical mythos posits that there is a higher realm available to human awareness, and abstract reason can’t take you there. I call it the “moral realm” without capitalizing because it represents the overlap between the Fallen Realm and the Spirit Realm. The moral realm is not simply a better intellectual clarity and reason, but a humble recognition that reason alone is not enough. This higher awareness is moral in nature, because the biblical mythos denies that morality is nothing more than a cultural construct; it says that morality is fundamental to existence itself. Ultimate truth in this universe is moral truth woven into Creation before we came along. Indeed, moral awareness rests on the assumption that the whole of Creation is alive, sentient and has a will of its own, and that it all reflects the character and moral nature of the Creator.
Thus, in proper mythology, Eden is not Heaven; Eden in the world free of fallen nature. Eden is still there all around us, but we are morally blinded by our hubris — a hubris that rests on denying the Fall. In that sense Eden never was in this world, because this world is defined by fallen human awareness. You have to remove human intellect from the throne and make it serve some higher faculty. That higher moral awareness is what we here at Kiln of the Soul call heart-mind or heart-led living. And this heart-led living prepares us for the final migration of the soul to the Spirit Realm.
There is nothing we can say about the Spirit Realm. While we can use parables to discuss the moral realm of human awareness within the fallen world, even parables fall short of genuine spiritual matters. The best we can do is inculcate a familiarity for the intellect of moral things in parables to indicate something about the nature of genuine spirituality. The whole point is to generate a desire to go there as soon as God lets us come home, and we gain that desire because we start down the path of communion with Creation on a moral level. That’s a taste of communion with the Creator.
You tell me: Do you suppose this alternative mythos makes it easier to share a redemptive life together in the Spirit?